Currently, the world is struggling to address two major crises – food insecurity and climate change. To this end, various technological solutions have been proposed/implemented. Some of these technologies are being deployed in Africa without adequate regulatory procedures or risk assessments.

These technologies present serious threats to livelihoods and rights of people across the continent, with impacts on agriculture, health, conservation, climate, and Nature in general. Many countries on the continent have been used as testing grounds for these risky technologies.

Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) dedicated a session of her School of Ecology held on 30-31 May 2024, with over 50 scholars in attendance, to interrogate these technologies and the implications of adopting them in Africa. 

Presentations covered themes including Climate Change and Nature Colonialism; Techno fixes; Geoengineering; Tools for Technology Assessment; Eco-colonialism; Implications of the New and Emerging Technologies for Africa; Regulation of the New and Emerging Technologies and Sustain-able Innovative Solutions.

Speakers in this session included: Mamadou Goita – Development Social Economist; Stephen Oduware – Environmental Activist; Chukwumerije Okereke – Professor in Global Governance & Public Policy; Zahra Moloo – Investigative Journalist; Nnimmo Bassey – Environmental Activist; Barbara Ntambirweki – Researcher and Policy Analyst; Jim Thomas – Policy, Strategy and Research Consultant; Babawale Obayanju – Communicator and Climate Justice Advocate; and Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje – Food Sovereignty Activist.

Key Learnings

  • Current environmental and climate challenges in Africa are exacerbated by colonial practices and persistent coloniality with implications on knowledge, power and being. 
  • Extractivism has locked in exploitation and dispossession, degraded ecosystems and impacted the climate. 
  • Effort to address climate change should go beyond carbon removal to address the intertwined social, environmental/ecological justice, economic and gender issues. 
  • Most of the current proposed technological solutions to the climate and food crises including genetic engineering, geoengineering  (carbon capture and storage, ocean acidification, solar engineering, cloud seeding etc), and other false solutions like carbon offsets and REDD+ merely attempt to address the symptoms rather than the fundamental problems caused by man’s exploitation of Nature and her resources.
  • These technofixes are being introduced without sufficient information or public awareness. They are often presented as beneficial without proper governance or risk assessment.
  • Technologies are not neutral but have political roots. Understanding this is crucial for assessing and governing new technologies effectively.
  •  In over 30 years since their introduction, GMOs – products of genetic engineering – have failed to deliver on the promises to solve world hunger and reduce pesticide use. Instead they have led to soil degradation, increased pesticide use, loss of biodiversity, and farmer suicides in some regions.
  • Geoengineering cannot be considered as a climate solution owing to its adverse potential impacts on biodiversity, livelihoods of local communities and possible worsening of the climate crises. Furthermore, some geoengineering actions require implementation at planetary scale and must be executed in perpetuity.
  • Extreme genetic engineering in agriculture such as synthetic biology and gene editing present serious implications on human/environmental health, and on local economies.
  • One application of this technology is in using gene drive techniques on mosquitoes toalter the reproductive system of mosquitoes, forcing genetic changes onto future generations, potentially leading to the sterilization and eventual extinction of the malaria-carrying Anopheles gambiae species. 
  • Gene Drive mosquitoes present severe potential unintended ecological consequences, as removing an entire species from an ecosystem could impact on ecosystem balance – affecting other species which are directly or indirectly depend on the the mosquitoes in the web of life. Additionally, there are ethical concerns with regard to testing this risky technology in rural communities  e.g in Burkina Faso, Uganda and elsewhere where people do not fully understand its implications and are being used as test subjects.
  • Regarding the digitization of agriculture, it was noted that big data companies are increasingly entering the African market with digital tools and data mining techniques which promote industrial agriculture and threaten to overshadow traditional agricultural practices that have sustained farmers for generations. This shift results to a dependence on modern technologies and data-driven approaches, which undermines the sustain-ability and cultural heritage of local farming communities.
  • There is a multiplicity of colonialities manifesting in both body and mind of its subjects. Coloniality can be enforced in form coloniality of power; coloniality of knowledge and coloniality of being. Coloniality of being eventually leads to loss of memory of being and this occurs when we think and see Mother Earth as something that should be exploited and not respected. We lose our sense of being and eventually would become tools of exploitation.
  • Green Economy, Blue Economy, green hydrogen, and geoengineering can be tools of eco colonialism.

Key Resolutions

  • Africa must not be used as a testing ground for experimenting risky technologies. We reject environmental and food system technofixes such as genetic engineering in agriculture, gene editing, synthetic biology, geoengineering and other such false solutions with adverse implications on biodiversity, biosafety, communities’ livelihoods and Nature’s balance.
  • Governments in Africa should extensively invest in independent research into these technologies and not depend on the assessment by countries or corporations who benefit from the propagation and adoption of these technologies.
  • Deploying technologies without thorough understanding and assessment can lead to irreversible harm. We call on the Nigerian government and the African Union to place a moratorium on the deployment of these risky technologies. 
  • To address the root of the climate crisis is to stop the core source of green house gases pollution – oil and gas exploration/exploitation. All over the world, it is time to catalyse a just transition to renewable and clean energy sources. It is time to invest in agroecology, which not only cools the planet but addresses current food systems crisis.
  • Five key measures Nigeria can implement to address climate change, instead of going into geoengineering are: to stop gas flaring;halt the expansion of petroleum resource extraction,  progressively invest in renewable energy; improve public transport systems and adopt an agroecological food system.
  • Governments in Africa should employ a multi-dimensional approach to address the intersection of climate change and neocolonialism in Africa; upscale adoption of renewable energy provision and address issues of corporate accountability, equitable access to resources, and respecting the cultural and spiritual connections of African communities to their land and environment.
  • Industrialised countries should recognize and pay the climate debt owed to the global south.
  • It is time to build people’s power through empowering local communities, working in line with Nature and restoring human and environmental dignity.

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